Conduct complaint vs. judge proceeds
Whether Nottingham tarred
office is taken under advisement
By Sara Burnett
Rocky Mountain News
Friday, March 14, 2008
U.S. District Judge Edward Nottingham, recently linked to a
high-priced escort service in
Denver, is the focus of a broadening
investigation into allegations he "has brought disrepute to the
judiciary," the Rocky Mountain News has learned.
In an order made public Thursday, Robert Henry, chief judge of
the 10th Circuit, said he is taking under advisement a complaint
about a judge's conduct. The order doesn't name the judge,
but the person who filed the complaint confirmed that it was
Sean Harrington, who runs a legal technology firm and who
represented himself in two cases before
Nottingham, provided the Rocky with a copy of his
Harrington alleged that Nottingham
ignored the law when he ruled against him and undermined "the
dignity of the court" with his personal conduct.
Henry quoted from the complaint in his order, in which he
dismissed the first charge.
But Henry's decision to move forward with allegations about
Nottingham's conduct is significant because
complaints against judges typically are dismissed after a
Between fiscal years 2005 and 2007, fewer than half the
complaints filed nationwide moved forward, according to a report
by the Administrative Office of the U.S. Courts. Almost all
those complaints were later dismissed.
The inquiry into Nottingham's behavior could lead to a public or
private reprimand, a request that
Nottingham voluntarily retire, a restricted caseload
or other corrective action.
Nottingham's office on Thursday referred calls
to his attorney, Stephen Peters.
"We are pleased that the 10th Circuit has dismissed at least a
portion of the complaint involving Chief Judge Nottingham, and
we look forward to the prompt resolution of the remainder of
this matter," Peters said.
He declined to discuss any other complaints, saying the process
Nottingham, 60, is the chief judge of the U.S. District Court
for Colorado, one of six
states in the 10th Circuit.
His current troubles started last year, when his ex-wife went
public with statements Nottingham
made during their divorce proceedings.
The judge admitted he had spent $3,000 over two days at the
Diamond Cabaret, a topless dance club in downtown
Denver, and that he didn't remember
everything that happened because he had been drinking.
Nottingham released a statement after his
comments were publicized, saying he wouldn't discuss the
allegations and calling them "private and personal matters
involving human frailties and foibles."
A few months later, a Denver
woman who is disabled filed a complaint with the 10th Circuit,
parked in a handicapped spot outside a Denver Walgreens drug
store without a handicapped permit.
When the woman, Jeanne Elliott, blocked him from pulling out of
the parking spot, Nottingham became angry and threatened to call U.S. marshals to remove her, Elliott
In a 911 tape from the incident obtained by the Rocky,
is heard calling police and asking for an officer to come and
get Elliott to move.
In a calm voice, Nottingham
admitted he parked illegally.
"I'm in the wrong . . . I'm happy to get a ticket," he said.
Officers gave Nottingham a $100 ticket, which he later paid, Denver police said.
Harrington's complaint, filed in January, cited those two
incidents as examples of conduct that has "brought disrepute to
the judiciary" and undermined "the dignity of the court."
Last week, 9News reported that Nottingham's name and phone
number were on a list of clients seized during a raid on a
prostitution ring known as Denver Players or Denver Sugar.
The TV station quoted a man who said he drove prostitutes to
encounters with Nottingham. The man signed an affidavit stating that
what he said was true, 9News reported.
Nottingham is not charged with a crime.
The U.S. Attorney's Office and Internal Revenue Service are
investigating the alleged owner of the prostitution business,
Brenda Stewart, for tax fraud, but no charges have been filed.
declined comment on whether charges may be filed against the
alleged prostitutes or customers.
Even if Nottingham were charged, soliciting a prostitute is a
misdemeanor in Colorado.
"The likelihood a judge would be removed from office for a
violation of prostitution law is small," said Steven Lubet, a
professor at Northwestern University Law
School and co-author of
Judicial Conduct and Ethics.
native, Nottingham was
appointed to the federal bench in 1989. He has presided
over several high-profile trials, including that of ex-Qwest CEO
Legal experts have said the complaints against
are unlikely to affect his previous cases.
burnetts@RockyMountainNews.com or 303-954-5343